In reading a recent post on edutopia (www.edutopia.org) today by Anthony Cody I was struck with an idea for simple yet effective professional development. In reading the reply to his posting on advocating for education by Bill Ferriter my idea started to take shape. Bill mentioned that he tries to read and respond to three educational blogs/postings a day. In doing this he mentions that he is able to stay up on current research, seeing other points of view, and sharing his point of view on topics. I believe this is not only at the heart of education but is essential to keeping education alive today. I also believe it can help educators meet if not exceed their needs for professional development.
In this day and age of NCLB and high qualified we as teachers need to be on the top of our game when it comes to our knowledge about our subject area. You may say what you will about NCLB and highly qualified and the nightmare it creates and I would support you on that; however I think there is a good side to it as well. What I think is a good idea is for us as educators to stay current on what is going on in our field whether that is instructional strategies, new research, new books, and/or new technology. That can be very hard given with trying to minimize days out of the classroom, shrinking budgets, lack of time in the day, etc. The traditional ways one can get information on current research are reading books or journals, attending in-building/district level professional development, attending classes or attending local, regional, and/or national conferences. All of these can be time consuming and in some cases expensive and in the case of reading no way of getting credit unless it is part of a class. For the later three one can apply for educational credit that can be helpful in moving them along a salary schedule, but often times these classes or conferences cost big bucks on top of the cost for credit. This is where blogging can come in handy.
Blogging is a great and inexpensive way to conduct professional development in the area of current research. It has all the elements of classes and/or conferences without the costs associated. You have experts in the field sharing their knowledge and/or research in a targeted forum (similar to a class on a specific topic). You have a somewhat captive audience participating engaged in an ongoing discussion of the topic as well as a recorded record of the discussion that one can refer back to. The only thing you have missing is the large entity asking for your money and giving you a grade. I can hear the skeptics out there crying hold on a minute you can't give credit for blogging. How will we know they are participating in the blog? How do we know if the blog they are participating in is credible? How do we assess what participants have learned? How do we account for everything? These are good questions posed by the skeptics but are answerable using the current system we have in place for recognizing classes and conferences. If teachers are participating in a blog, and they must for it to be effective, their posts are recorded. Districts can work with unions to develop criteria for which educators get credit for participation. In regards to the quality of information in a blog the moderators and bloggers are pretty good at policing inappropriate/inaccurate information. Districts in most cases have lists of organizations that they recognize as valid education/professional development providers. Why not add entities or individuals that maintain a credible blogs to this list? In the area of assessing what is learned you need to look no further than the classroom, staff meeting, lunch room, department/grade level meeting. One thing I have learned about educators is that when they have learned something good or that works they can't wait to share it. If they are sharing it with other educators and/or using it with their students then you can see that they have learned something. Yes this is anecdotal and subjective measurement but some of the best learning is measured in this way. I also am hearing all you teachers out there saying when will we have time to do all this. I would answer this by saying it is your choice to participate or not but if you are getting credit for participating why wouldn't you? I was a skeptic on blogging when it first came out. I thought it was just a fad that would come and go, I also thought that it was just another form of chatting online and that may have been what it started out as but it has morphed into a way of cataloging and sharing knowledge in real time. I have been blogging for going on 2 years now and I can say that I am convinced it is here to stay.
I am curious to hear your thoughts on this idea of allowing blogging as a form of professional development. If you and/or your district are doing this what can you share on how it is going?